New program expects to improve cancer treatment for Medicare patients

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is one of 17 insurance companies participating in a new cancer model with the federal Medicare agency.

Beginning July 1, a new federal experiment is expected to provide better care for cancer patients covered by Medicare and rein in the rising costs of cancer treatment.

The Oncology Care Model was one of the topics discussed at Wednesday’s Cancer Moonshot Summit, an event hosted by Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina also announced it will join 16 other insurance providers across country to test the new model.

Four Palmetto State oncology practices are participating, too, including Charleston Hematology Oncology Associates.

Services provided under the program will include coordinated appointments with providers to ensure timely treatment and 24/7 access to care when needed.

Other services may include making sure scan and blood test results are received before patient appointments so additional doctors’ visits aren’t necessary.

The model may also provide patients access to emotional support groups, clinical trials and pain management services.

“Participating in the Oncology Care Model ... allows us to achieve shared goals of improving health outcomes, reducing rising cost trends and enhancing the member/patient experience overall,” Shawn Stinson, chief medical officer of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, said in a press release.

Federal Medicare officials reported that the program will include more than 3,200 oncologists and will cover about 155,000 patients.

The National Institutes of Health recently estimated that cancer costs are expected to reach $158 billion in 2020 — a 27 percent increase from 2010.

“This patient-centered care model fits within the Administration’s dual missions for delivery system reform and the White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force — to improve patient access to and the quality of health care while spending dollars more wisely,” Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release.

The new cancer model will be tested for five years through mid-2021.

Reach Derrek Asberry at 843-937-5517. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.